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KELLER’S AEW “DOUBLE OR NOTHING” REPORT
MAY 25, 2019
LAS VEGAS, NEV. AT THE MGM GRAND GARDEN ARENA
AIRED LIVE ON PPV AND STREAMING ON B/R LIVE
BUY IN PRE-SHOW REPORT
Announcers: Alex Marvez, Excalibur
(A) CASINO BATTLE ROYAL
(My DirectTV feed started five minutes late.) A few minutes in, Billy Gunn came up behind MJF and threw him over the top rope, but MJF stood on the ring apron. Bria Pillman Jr. then went after Joey Janella with a flying tackle. They did various spots where wrestlers nearly landed on the floor.
The next batch included Marco Stunt and Tommy Dreamer, among others. Dream bashed people in the heads with trash can lids including Jimmy Havoc. A “Tommy Dreamer!” chant started. The 21st entrant was Hangman Page. The announcer called it was Page when the camera, inexcusably cut back to the ring and not to the entrance stage. (WWE makes mistakes like that, but it’s rare. I can’t even imagine what was going through the director’s head to not stay on the stage, and perhaps just as much of a miscue was the announcer – not sure if it was Marvez or Excalibur – saying it was Page before the camera cut back to show him.)
Stunt and Jungle Boy went after Ace Romero mid-ring. Romero tossed Stunt out of the ring by catching him mid-air. Havoc eventually eliminated Dreamer. Havoc bite the fingers of Jungle Boy causing him to lose his grip on the top rope and drop to the floor.
Luchasauraus, Page, Havoc, and MJF were the last four in the ring. Luchasaurus knocked Havoc to the floor. Page then ducked a charging Luchasauraus and knocked him over the top rope to eliminate him. MJF had been legally hiding at ringside, but ran in to eliminate Page, but Page held on. MJF prematurely celebrated, and then Page clothesline him over the top rope to win.
WINNER: Page to earn one slot in the AEW World Title match, facing the winner of the Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega main event.
(Keller’s Analysis: Rough start. Just too many wrestlers all at once out of context for a new audience, and with all due respect to Tommy Dreamer’s backstory, we didn’t need in 2019 him out there hitting people with trash can lids. There were amateurish looking spots and overacting throughout. It was just a clustermess of people who had no business being within a mile of a lucky shot at winning and becoming the other half of AEW’s first title match. No suspense at the end because nobody in that final four other than Page was a potential winner. It sent a poor opening message to people watching the free show to decide whether to order the PPV portion.)
NOTE: Sean Radican is also covering this event live for PWTorch.com, so check out his report HERE including a more detailed rundown of the battle royal eliminations.
-The announcers pushed the PPV itself and hyped the individual matches.
-Alicia About interviewed “Smiling” Kylie Rae. Then Peter Avalon and Eva Bates walked in and claimed to be The Librarian. They “shhh’d” each other.
(Keller’s Analysis: This is way too club-housey with a lot of cheesy overacting. They’re assuming way too much knowledge here for a new audience. This belonged online only, if that. It also went on way too long. Why is the interviewer not holding a microphone? They’re using a boom mic, but it’s so weird not having her hold an actual mic. This reminded me of the skits ROH would put on their VHS releases back in the day between matches that just felt amateurish.)
-They went to the announcers on camera. Marvez said two librarians is one too many. They lamented Kylie being upstaged and being the bridesmaid once again.
-A video package aired with Cody talking about facing his brother.
(B) SAMMY GUEVARA vs. “SUPER BAD” KIP SABIAN
Marvez thanked those watching on iTV watching late in the UK and invited them to buy the event on PPV. The camera man was surprised by a Guavara dive and barely caught the end of it, which the announcers noted. Understandably the announcers are hard-selling the PPV, but in the process are overselling the action on the pre-show as “the reason” to order in a infomercial pitchman way rather than a professional sportscaster way. It’s not awful, but it feels like a little much. Late in the match Guavara landed a guillotine shooting star press off the ring apron onto Sabian who was leaning over the ringside barricade. Back in the ring Sabian lifted his knees on a 630 attempt and then Sabian quickly finished him with his finisher for the three count.
WINNER: Kip Sabian in 10:00. (**)
(Keller’s Analysis: Some good wrestling, but again from a standpoint of AEW branding themselves early and trying to sell people on a PPV, this came across as two wrestlers doing nice moves that you might like to see again, but just not enough time to establish why viewers should be invested in them.)
-The announcers said they were excited that Jim Ross would be calling the action on the PPV, noting he is the most iconic announcer in the industry’s history. They showed him walking backstage in his AEW blazer and signature hat.
-They cut to a pickup truck (which Marvez called “a limousine”) and they showed Cody and Brandi’s dog Pharaoh first, then Brandi, then Cody himself.
-They cut backstage to Kenny Omega doing his intentionally cheesy overacting with a thumbs up.
(Keller’s Analysis: For a main eventer on the PPV getting ready for a chance to qualify for the first-ever AEW World Title match, this was a bad look. This is how you act on a goofy YouTube show when there’s no pressure and not a high stakes fight coming up in a few hours. Again, for a first impression for some people checking out the pre-show, this clubhouse wink/nod demeanor undermines him being seen as a top star who knows when it’s time to be serious.)
-They cut backstage to Matt Jackson introducing himself to someone. The camera panned over and Michael Nakazawa introduced himself. Then Nick Jackson walked up and asked Matt how he’s feeling. Then a security guy asked for their credentials. Nick superkicked him in a cartoonish-looking spot.
(Keller’s Analysis: I’m worried here. I think they have to be true to themselves, but this set the tone that they’re doing comedy skits instead of preparing for a big co-main event match later. The tone is wrong. This stuff is fun on Being the Elite in the right context.)
-They cut to a low-res video game Being the Elite vignette and then out came the Young Bucks on the stage followed by Cody, Brandi, and Kenny. Fans loudly chanted “AEW!” They passed the mic around and wanted to be the one to welcome fans. Kenny said they left him off of this last year. He started an “A-E-Dub!” chant. He said it has such a ring to it. He told the fans their energy will fuel them. He said he feels they can’t do any wrong. When Matt said it feels great to see 20,000, Cody said the building holds 13,000. Matt said it’s wrestling, so they round up. Cody nodded and announced they just set the attendance record for the MGM Arena with 20,000. Brandi said factually speaking, this is the first sensory inclusive event in wrestling history. Cody said they’re about to kick off the revolution. As he yelled, “Are you guys ready?” they cut away to the actual PPV with Cody in mid-sentence.
(Keller’s Analysis: I know it’s tough to time things out perfectly, but they should have had a little flex space here so they didn’t end up running out of time to close out the hard sell. This felt like something to present to the fans off-camera as a special in-house segment for those who bought tickets. This was a time to sell people on Chris Jericho’s approach to the PPV main event, who Kenny Omega is, and the seriousness with which Cody is approaching this evening with a match against his older brother.)
FINAL THOUGHTS ON PRE-SHOW: This was awful. Just almost a worst-case scenario, for me, about AEW taking advantage of the pre-show. I disagree with almost everything they did here, Alex Marvez sounded like he was working on commission and it was a turnoff. I’d have had Jim Ross do the final hard sell by bringing him on to do what Dana White has done for decades with UFC on the pre-show and endorse the main matches for fans and convey his excitement about being able to call the action on this historically significant night for the wrestling industry. Fans trust J.R. and he should have been the voice letting fans know this is worth their time and $50.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING PPV EVENT
-After the National Anthem, pyro blasted… A video package aired previewing the event… Jim Ross then introduced the show as a camera panned the crowd. He stood between Marvez and Excalibur.
(Keller’s Analysis: Overall production value are strong here with good lighting of the full venue and a professional looking entrance stage.)
(1) STRONG HEARTS (Cima & T-Hawk & Lindaman from OWE) vs. SCU (Christopher Daniels & Kaz & Scorpio Sky)
SCU came out first. They did a little mic work. The announcers talked early in the match about the time difference with China and Vegas, forecasting a loss by building in an excuse. Marvez at one point said SCU is a new team, which is crazy. Excalibur clarified without showing up Marvez a minute later. Ross referred to the OWE wrestlers as Chinese, but they’re Japanese wrestlers performing for OWE, and Cima in particular is a big Japanese name for the last 15 years. Pretty much start to finish steady action with one spot after another.
WINNER: SCU in 14:00. (**3/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Good athleticism throughout. A showcase spotfest, but not really much else came out of it. Ross did some play-by-play, but Excalibur jumped in and seemed to call most of the moves, sometimes yelling and over-modulating in a jarring way. The announcer team felt like three play-by-play men and no personality or chemistry yet.)
-Allie joined the announcers.
(2) “SMILY” KYLIE RAE vs. “THE NATIVE BEAST” NYLA ROSE vs. DR. BRITT BAKER, D.M.D vs. AWESOME KONG
Ross said you can’t help but like Rae. Marvez said her smile lights up the room. After the three women made their ring entrance, out walked Brandi Rhodes. Allie asked if she was “inserting herself into this match.” She was in her ring gear. Brandi said the women in the ring shouldn’t look confused like they lied to her. She said she meant it when she told them that this Triple Threat match could be a great match, she 100 percent meant it. “But I ran into a problem,” she said. “I don’t want a great match. I want a match that is awesome.” Then out came Awesome Kong. The crowd popped. Ross said there is no one like this woman.
All three went after Kong when the match began. Kong knocked Rose out, then went after the other two. Brit pulled the ropes down and Kong tumbled to the floor. Kylie and Brit then squared off. A minute later Kong caught Brit at ringside, then Kylie dove onto both of them at ringside. Rose and Kylie then battled. Rose scored a two count with a soft cover after dominating. Marvez hyped the “Fight for the Fallen” on July 13 in Jacksonville, Fla. Brit came in and scored a two count on Rose. They cut to a wide shot of the arena as Brit had Kylie covered for a two count (which was an awkward director’s choice, not sensing at all the key moment of the match happening).
Brit and Kylie set up Rose for a superplex, but Kong entered and powerbombed all three to the mat. An “Awesome Kong!” chant broke out. Kong set up Brit for a move at ringside, but Brit fought out of it. Kong delivered a spinning backfist instead, then threw her into the ring. Kong set up an Awesome Bomb on the ring apron, but Brit escaped and kicked Kong off the ring apron. Rose then speared Kong hard into the ringside steps. Brit and Kylie battled in the ring next. Kylie kicked Brit in the head with a loud slapping sound. She overshot on it badly and it showed light, but Ross said it was “right to the temple.” Brandi hung out at ringside conspicuously. Kylie dead lift German suplexed Brit for a two count. Kylie showed fire, but turned and ate a kick to the face. brit then gave her an ushi giroshi for the win.
WINNER: Brit Baker in 11:00. (**3/4)
(Keller’s Analysis: Some awkward exchanges, but mostly exciting with steady action. Again, Excalibur seemed to be the most prepared to call the moves by their names.)
-Ross noted everyone backstage was nervous and it was an edgy atmosphere. They cut to Kenny warming up. Then Chris Jericho looking serious in his locker room.
(3) THE BEST FRIENDS (Trent Barretta & Chuck Taylor) vs. JACK EVANS & ANGELICO
Excalibur noted that it’s the AEW debut of Barretta and Taylor. (Both teams had neon green accents on their gear. That shouldn’t happen.) Angelico and Evans broke up an early hug attempt by Barretta and Taylor. Ross said Evans is like a deadly wasp with a deadly stinger. When the Best Friends finally hugged, it got a pop. Taylor lifted Evans into a crucifix and then Barretta then gave him a cutter for a near fall. When Angelico and Evans took over, fans chanted “Best Friends.” Angelico gave Barretta a running crucifix bomb. Evans then landed a top rope 630 for a near fall, but Chucky T made the save. An “A-E-Dub!” chant broke out. then came a “This is awesome!” chant. Taylor lifted Evans onto his shoulders and then Chucky T leaped off the top rope with a flying doomsday knee. Excalibur was doing the heavy lifting on naming the moves. Taylor leaped off the ropes and stomped Evans into the mat and Barretta. Ross said he hopes this is a sign of tag team wrestling becoming great again. He talked about being a big fans of tag teams when he was a kid including The Kentuckians and The Assassins.
WINNERS: Barretta & Taylor in 13:00. (***)
(Keller’s Analysis: Another nice dose of athletic highspots. It’s tough without TV and backstories to really do much more than just try to dazzle with athleticism. Evans and Angelico stood out with some graceful flying moves and double-team moves.)
-After the match, the lights went out as the Best Friends were lobbying for a hug. Then the lights came on and Excalibur yelled, “What are they doing here?” Marvez asked who they were. It was the Super Smash Brothers, but no one said their name. The lights went out again. Then several masked wrestlers joined the other two and beat on all four wrestlers. Marvez said the great tag match was spoiled by “these goons.” Nobody on the announce team would say who the wrestlers were by name even though Excalibur indicated he knew which was just awkward. They should have had a name for them they felt comfortable saying instead of putting the announcers in that awkward position. (Might I humbly suggest The Smash Experience?) The lights went out again and came on and they formed a human throne.
— Rich Fann II (@Rich_Fann) May 26, 2019
(Keller’s Analysis: One of many things AEW could do to set the tone on in terms of being different and starting a new era of presentation of pro wrestling is avoiding the tired and overplayed and, frankly, silly “lights out, someone shows up mid-ring” schtick. If someone “isn’t supposed to be there,” but they take control of the lighting in the arena, it just defies logic. It feels like a 1990s concept that a lot of bad companies and bookers have overdone over the years. AEW should fine fresh ways to present the product and fall back on these tired overplayed cliched.)
-A commercial hyped “All Out” on Aug. 31 back in Chicago, Ill. at Sears Center.
-They went back to the announcers who talked about a buzz in the crowd and “All Out” ticket sales going on sale June 14. Ross seemed to refer to the first event as “All Immersed.”
(4) HIKARU SHIDA & RIHO & RYO MIZUNAMI vs. AJA KONG & YUKA SAKAZAKI & EMI SAKURA
The announcers talked about the background of Aja Kong. Ross said he has never called a match with her before. Kong no-sold Riho’s offense a few minutes in and then basically sat up on a pin attempt pretending there was a kickout. Kong then landed a leaping pile driver, but her cover was broken up by Shida and Mizunami. Marvez talked about fans chanting “This is wrestling” and said this is indeed pro wrestling. A few minutes later Riho avoided a top rope elbow by Kong. Shida tagged in and went after Kong with an enzuigiri. Sakura interfered with a kick. Kong tried to use a trash can. Shida brought in a kendo stick. Shida went for a flying knee, but Kong blocked it with a can and tagged in Sakura who led the crowd in claps and the singing of “We Will Rock You!” Kong and Sakura eventually double teamed Shida and scored what appeared to be a two count, but the bell rang. Fans loudly chanted “You f—ed up!” The ref signaled the match should continue. Sakura and Riho battled, but Kong entered and mistakenly back-fisted her partner. Shida then finished off Sakura with a running knee.
WINNERS: Shida & Kong & Sakazaki in 13:00. (**1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: Some good action, some not so good action in this one. The mistaken bell ringing is bad. Really, this is just too many wrestlers doing too many spotfests. I think AEW would be better with an NXT Takeover format with a three hour max show with six matches focused on the primary stars. This is just too many wrestlers on the show from the battle royal to all of these tag matches. It’s ultimately a blur of appearances and spots. It’s not brand-building, it’s an international all-star show that feels exciting and exhilarating at times, but also overwhelming and busy and hardly exclusive.)
-They went to the announcers. Ross said he didn’t know exactly what was next and seemed lost for a moment. Then he said he was uncomfortable with the tension between Cody and Dusty and how real it feels. Then they threw to a video package on Cody and Dustin.
(5) CODY (w/Brandi Rhodes) vs. DUSTIN RHODES
Cody’s ring entrance began with an extended dark stage and generic music playing. Then a throne on the stage was lit up. Cody and Brandi walked out and looked at the throne which had several skulls on it. They looked at it and then walked to the ring. Brandi pulled a sledgehammer out from under the ring. Cody looked at it, then brought it to the stage and broke the throne with one big swing. Brandi yelled, “Bring it down!”
(Keller’s Analysis: Interesting choice to go after Triple H, which is more linked to the popular NXT brand, than Vince McMahon and the main brand, but Triple H took the digs at AEW at the Half of Fame last month and NXT is the cooler more popular brand with AEW’s exciting fanbase. NXT is a really good product and Triple H is popular with the fanbase that AEW is attracting or going after, so this is an interesting strategy. They need to produce a better show from here on out to live up to the shots they’re taking at Triple H, because it’s not like the NXT product isn’t really good.)
Cody stood on the second rope in the ring and fans chanted “Cody!” Dustin made his ring entrance to a variation of the Goldust song. He then stepped out onto the stage in a black and red shiny bodysuit with half his face painted. Marvez asked if this is the last ride for the 50 year old Dustin. Ross said Cody is looking to “eliminate the perception of the Attitude Era” that his brother Dustin was a big part of.
When the bell rang, fans chanted “This is awesome!” Fans then switched to a loud ‘Dusty!” chant. Marvez said he’s getting emotional, so it’s tough to see how the wrestlers can focus. Cody dove through the ropes onto Dustin at ringside a minute in. Cody was going to throw Dustin into the crowd, but fans didn’t move. He reversed direction and nothing happened. They tried again and Dustin spun around under the bottom rope and kicked Cody, then flipped onto him. The fans chanted, “You still got it!” Dustin mounted Cody in the corner and punched away at him. The announcers settled into interacting with each other by distracting the personalities and back story and felt more comfortable than calling the spotfests. Brandi threw a drink in Dustin’s face and then Cody landed a gut-buster for a two count. Ross said he thought Dustin took a while to kick out, so is Dustin at age 50 fading. It was actually a fast two count, so it was a strange observation.
Cody dragon leg whipped Dustin and covered him, but Dustin rolled out from under Cody’s unconventional cover. Cody snap powerslammed Dustin for another two count, then settled into a leg hold. There has been very little mat work and submissions on this show. Dustin did his signature drop down uppercut during a comeback. Cody sent Dustin head first into the middle turnbuckle which was exposed. Brandi then interfered by bashing Dustin in the head from ringside, but they were at a replay on split screen when she did it. The crowd booed, but the announcers missed it entirely and didn’t even reference it even as the fans were booing loudly. Brandi then speared Dustin at ringside. “What kind of family is this, for goodness sakes?” exclaimed Ross. Ref Earl Hebner kicked her out of ringside. (The Cody and Brandi characters are as inconsistent as Triple H and Stephanie, unfortunately, playing for cheers one second and getting booed as heels the next. I hope they clean this up right away, or at least in time for the TNT debut.) DDP came out and carried Brandi to the back.
They showed that Dustin was bleeding heavily from the face. There were blood smears all over the ring apron. Ross said if Dustin can’t protect himself, the ref may need to stop the match to protect the athlete. Cody looked at his brother’s blood all over his hands, then went for the cover in the ring and scored a two count. Cody kicked Dustin a few times. Dustin couldn’t see. Cody drop-kicked him and scored a two count. Cody landed a Curb Stomp for another near fall a minute later. “This has become a bloody mess,” said Ross. Dustin surprised Cody with a powerslam for a near fall. Ross called it an instinctive powerslam. Cody then put Dustin in the figure-four mid-ring. Dustin reversed it. Cody rolled to the ropes to force a break. The blood was smeared all over the mat. Cody was covered in blood splatters. Dustin came back and yanked Cody’s trunks down and whipped him with his weight belt. “The Cheeks of Wrath!” said Ross. Dustin delivered a Code Red for a near fall that popped the crowd. Ross said this is what wrestling fans live for, a match like this.
Dustin lifted Cody on the top turnbuckle and set up a superplex. The announcers talked about how light-headed he must be. He delivered a suplex off the top rope, then a Crossroads for a believable near fall. Cody blocked Dustin’s next move and then mule kicked Dustin low. Then he hit a Disaster Kick followed by a Crossroads for a near fall. The crowd popped for the kickout. They showed an emotionally spent fan reacting. Marvez noted that Dustin was losing a lot of blood. Fans chanted “Fight Forever!” Ross compared it to a Dusty Rhodes-Terry Funk bloodbath. Dustin then gave Cody a Crossroads for another near fall. Ross asked when and how this odyssey will end. Another chant of “This is awesome!” Cody and Dustin exchanged exhausted punches mid-ring. Cody landed a dropdown uppercut and a bicycle kick to the face. Dustin took Cody down out of mid-air with a flying neckbreaker. He draped his arm over Cody for a near fall. Another “Fight Forever!” chant. Ross called it one of the most emotionally charged matches he’s ever called.
Cody lifted and dropped Dustin behind him neck-first with his Din’s Fire. Cody looked at his fallen brother and pondered the situation. Ross said someone should just win with a wrestling hold. Cody delivered another Crossroads for the three count.
WINNER: Cody in 23:00. (****1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: Tons of blood, and it really stands out in this era when that is just not happening in major packed U.S. arenas broadcasting on TV or PPV. The crowd ate it up, and Cody and Dustin were two pros telling a dramatic story not just with moves, but with their pacing and body language and facial expressions. Ross got into his groove here and really seemed 100 times more comfortable calling a match like this compared to everything else on this show. He took command of the calling of the match and brought it to another level. He seems to have more confidence when there aren’t a ton of wrestlers he doesn’t know doing moves he doesn’t know the names of, and that’s understandable.)
-Cody left, then returned to the ring. Fans chanted, “Thank you, Dustin!” Cody said, “You don’t get to retire here because I have to ask you a favor in front of God and the whole world.” Cody listed his name along with Matt, Nick, Kenny, and Tony. Cody said at the Jacksonville show he put his name on a contract for a tag match with a partner of his choosing against The Young Bucks. He said he doesn’t need a partner or a friend. “I need my older brother,” he said, his voice cracking as he said it. He asked Dustin to join him. Fans cheered. Dustin and Cody hugged. Big cheers. They left arm-in-arm.
(Keller’s Analysis: Cody was fantastic here. The cadence of his comments and the voice cracking at the end was tone-perfect. I really liked the idea of them beating the tension and resentment out of their relationship here, then wanting to unite for a signature tag match with The Bucks.)
-They went to the announcers. Ross said he’s not crying, he has allergies. Excalibur was wiping tears out from under his mask. They threw to clips of Hangman Page winning the battle royal earlier to earn one spot in the AEW World Title match. The clips included Dream using the trash can lid and Joey Janella being eliminated by being dropped over a table.
(Keller’s Analysis: If you didn’t know who Hangman Page was before this event, the battle royal wasn’t a showcase for his in-ring style or his personality, so this would have been a cool opportunity to show him backstage celebrating and reacting to his battle royal win and the ramifications of it.)
-Jack Whitehall stood mid-ring and introduced Bret Hart for the presentation of the new AEW World Title belt. (This spot was originally supposed to be Ric Flair, but health issues caused a change of plans. Bret is a great replacement and, in a way, sends more of a message to fans since Bret is more of a “WWE guy” than Ric.) Bret walked out with the belt in a sack in a scene reminiscent of Mick Foley last Monday on Raw. Fans chanted “Holy sh–!” Bret said he feels so grateful and thankful to be there. He said 26 years ago he “defended the world title here.” He said it’s great to be standing there at “another sold out world championship match.” He said wants to be the first presenter of “this absolutely beautiful belt.” He said it’s as beautiful as any belt you’ll ever seen. He introduced Hangman Page. He said he’ll face either Jericho or Omega “in the next PPV next month or a few months from now.” Fans laughed. “It’s been a while,” Bret said. Out limped Page. Marvez talked about Pac being his scheduled opponent, but they had another match and Pac injured Page’s leg. So Page entered the battle royal, but in the 21st spot. Page entered the ring.
MJF’s music played and he walked onto the stage. Fans chanted “Asshole!” at him. He said he’s the asshole but they’re the ones who paid to see him. He introduced himself as the fastest rising star. He called the fans nimrods and said they boo him because he’s jealous. He said he is the quintessential future of AEW. He said a horse can’t be the face of this company, looking Page’s direction. MJF said when a race horse has a bad leg, no matter how face they are, they become about as useful as these fat white trash hicks in the crowd. He said you take them out back and blow their stupid little brains out. He told Page to do the right thing and relinquish his title shot because his win was a fluke, and give the title shot to “a real man.” He called Bret “old man” but the director showed Page instead. MJF began to say he’s the new best there ever was, but then said that catch phrase sucks. Page heard enough and took a swing at MJF. MJF backed up and said he doesn’t ned this. Jungle Boy, the son of the late Luke Perry, walked out. MJF called him a prepubescent teenager and walked away. Suddenly out walked Jimmy Havoc. MJF was stuck between Page and Havoc and Jungle Boy. MJF said they should talk about this like grown men, but then tried to punch Jungle Boy. Page threw MJF into the crowd and then almost ran into a cameraman who walked right into the view of the other cameraman on the scene at ringside. Bret then held up the AEW Title belt and spun around. “Now that is a strap!” said Ross. Fans chanted “Thank you, Bret!”
(Keller’s Analysis: The belt looked great. Too bad they barely got a shot of it because Bret pointed away from the hard cam at first, then the director cut to a crowd shot after we got a brief glimpse of it. The surprise appearance by Bret, and his endorsement of the belt, is a great christening. It’s also a signal AEW is at war with WWE, and it indicates Bret probably has made his last appearance for WWE. It’s funny because Bret was Vince’s secret weapon against TNA when they debuted on Monday night up against Raw years ago when TNA has Hulk Hogan. MJF was a little heavy-handed with his comments. Some of the comments came off as indy cheap heat. I’d have dialed it back by 20 percent. He’s super-talented, but it was a little much. Then treating him as a comedy guy getting beaten up by three others wasn’t framing him as a potential top act. He was more Sami Zayn or Elias in how he was framed, which isn’t awful, but it pegs him as a mid-carder, and I hope they have higher aspirations.)
-A video aired on The Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros. match.
(6) THE YOUNG BUCKS (Nick & Matt Jackson) vs. THE LUCHA BROS. (Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix) – AAA Tag Team Title match
The Young Bucks came out in Elvis jump suits customized and modernized. Ross noted both teams are real-life blood brothers. They also noted they’re almost the same ages with two at age 34 and two others in their late 20s. They opened with Matt vs. Pentagon. Ross said their program tonight is trending worldwide – #AEWDON. Marvez said, “Continue to tweet, we love the attention.” He said they want to “bring back some wrestling fans.” Fenix outwrestled the Bucks and double arm-dragged them both. The Bucks regrouped at ringside. Nick and Fenix had a cool exchange at ringside that led to a surge of applause. They returned to the ring and exchanged chops. Lucha Bros. superkicked Matt from opposite sides. Nick returned, but got kicked by both one after another and eventually Pentagon scored a near fall. Marvez said this is like when the home team falls behind 28-0 in the first quarter of a football game. Marvez plugged ticket sales launch this Wednesday for the Jacksonville show.
Matt made a comeback and pressed Fenix and then splashed Pentagon. The announcers noted that Matt’s back seems better after having several months to heal. Excalibur noted that The Bucks during their time away from actual matches have added more moves. He said he’s called more matches of the Bucks than anyone and he’s seeing moves he’s never seen before. The Bucks took over with some double-team moves. Ross said they seemed to have found their range and are in a groove. …
Eventually the Bucks applied stereo Sharpshooters. The Lucha Bros. reached the bottom rope to force a break. Ross said it’d have been humiliating for the Lucha Bros. to lose the belts in Mexico, then lose a rematch in the U.S. by submission. Nick landed a 450 for a near fall, broken up by Pentagon.
The Bucks did a double team move on Fenix out of the corner for a near fall. Ross said it was an example of Fenix’s resilience. Excalibur said that was a shout out to Chris Sabin & Alex Shelley, a move that the Bucks have been on the receiving end of many times. The Bucks went into a series of super kicks and roundhouse kicks. All four were down and slow to get up. Fans stood and applauded.
Pentagon and Fenix hit Canadian Destroyers one after another, one on the ring apron on Nick and the next in the ring on Matt with Fenix scoring a believable near fall that popped the crowd. “If that didn’t do it, what will?” asked Ross. A “This is awesome!” chant broke out. Pentagon lunched Fenix off of his shoulders onto the Bucks at ringside. Fenix played to the crowd and got a reaction. Pentagon landed a package pile driver on both Bucks, then Fenix launched onto Nick from the top rope with a near fall. A minute later Fenix launched at the Bucks, but they double stereo superkicked him out of mid-air. Matt gave Fenix a brainbuster off the top rope in what Excalibur called a shoutout to Tijuana’s own El Generico. The Bucks then delivered a 450 splash and moonsault sequence for a near fall. The Bucks reacted like they didn’t know what to do next.
Matt lifted Fenix and then Nick dropkicked him and Matt gave him a package pile driver. Nick dove at Pentagon to knock him off the ring apron as Matt went for the pin, but it was good for only two. Excalibur said they’ll pulling moves out of former rivals playbooks, first The Motor City Machine Guns and now El Generico & Kevin Steen. Matt set up Pentagon for a tombstone, but chaos ensued and then Pentagon then applied an armbar submission and snapped his arm back. He followed with a Pentagon Driver for a near fall. Ross said he’s emotionally exhausted and said this was amazing. Fenix played to the crowd and charged at Matt, but Matt caught him and held up Fenix. Then Nick leaped at them and delivered the Meltzer Driver for the win.
WINNER: The Young Bucks in 25:00 to retain the AAA Tag Team Titles. (****1/2)
(Keller’s Analysis: A top-shelf tag team match start to finish. Just another level of big spots with enough psychology to build to the near falls and eventually finish logically. The callbacks to former rivals signature moves was a really cool touch. It made as clear a statement as you’ll see that tag team wrestling can co-main event pro wrestling shows in 2019. AEW made it clear they want fans to know they intend to bring back tag team glory days.)
-They went to the announcers. Ross said Jericho has reinvented himself and Omega has taken his game to a whole new level. Ross said he’s picking Jericho because he needs this win. Ross said it’ll take a special match to close this show. Marvez compared this to huge boxing matches at this arena.
-A video package previewed the main event.
(7) CHRIS JERICHO vs. KENNY OMEGA – Winner Faces Hangman Page for AEW Title
Jericho stood on the stage and extended his arms on a dark stage with his light-up jacket, teasing that version of his persona. Eventually he came out to a Fozzy song with a darker, disheveled look. It was a pretty low-key ring entrance given the occasion, but it set the tone well. He, of course, had a signature look for the match that was main event level and distinctive. Then Omega came out, proceeded by some “Kenny” chants. Jericho watched intently. Justin Roberts did a really nice job hitting the right notes and cadence and intensity for each of the wrestlers in this main event. Ross said it’s a main event vibe as these two Winnipeg natives get set to battle. Ross said Jericho is in as good a shape as he’s been in years (which isn’t close to true cosmetically, as Jericho looked overweight and flabby here). Ross did seem to focus on the idea that Jericho’s been MMA training and has great cardio. Marvez said he’s reinventing not just his persona, but also his ring style. Jericho pushed the cracker barrel out of the ring as part of AEW’s partnership with Cracker Barrel restaurants. Ross told everyone to settle in. The bell rang.
Jericho shoulder-tackled Omega. Omega fired back with chops to the chest and then attacked Jericho in the corner aggressively. Jericho avoided a V-trigger and Omega went into the corner. Jericoh then chopped away at Omega. Marvez said #AEWDON is the no. 1 trend on Twitter. Omega went for a huracanrana, but Jericho reversed Omega into a Walls of Jericho. Omega crawled over to the ropes quickly and somersaulted to the floor. Jericho slidekicked Omega, sending him into the ringside barricade. Ross complimented Jericho for not joking around at all and taking this seriously. One second later Jericho grabbed the ringside bell and rang it and declared himself the winner. Omega eventually made a comeback at ringside, but Jericho shoved him off the ringside barricade into the lap of fans in the front row. Jericho grabbed a camera and filmed Omega trying to recover. Omega sprayed something in Jericho’s eyes, then missile dropkicked him. Ross said there are countouts, but the rule is discretionary. He said given the stakes, it’s a good move to let this go. Excalibur said you can only imagine the reaction in wrestling if he counted out both wrestlers here to end this match with these high stakes.
Back in the ring Omega landed a moonsault for a near fall. They exchanged chops. Jericho caught a charging Omega in the eye with a boot, then drop-kicked Jericho. Ross said he thinks Omega has a broke noise. They stood and exchanged punches. Ross said Jericho was aiming for Omega’s bloodied nose. When Jericho grabbed a table at ringside, Omega slidekicked it into Jericho, then did a leaping dive at the table and knocked Jericho down hard on the floor. They were slow to get up. Omega then leaped over the top rope and double-stomped the table onto Jericho. “Holy sh–!” chanted the fans. Omega set up the table legs. Ross said Jericho is the “forever young 48 year old.” Omega slid Jericho into the ring, the drove Jericho’s face into the mat and scored a two count. Omega’s bloody nose dropped to his lips, teeth, and chest. Jericho blocked a snap dragon suplex. Omega kicked Jericho into the corner face-first and then V-triggered the back of his head. Ross plugged AEW.com (a real estate site), then corrected it and said it’s AllEliteWrestling.com. “There’s a lot going on here,” he said.
Omega set up a snap dragon avalanche style off the middle ropes. Jericho elbowed out of it. Omega climbed to the top rope and then back suplexed Jericho hard to the mat. He was slow to roll Jericho over and roll on top. When he finally did, Jericho kicked out at two.
Jericho made a comeback and went for a quick Lionsault, but Omega lifted his knees and hit a V-trigger. Jericho came back with a released German suplex, then kneed Omega on a Lionsault. He did it again and this time landed it the usual way for a two count. Omega blocked a Code Breaker and kneed Jericho in the chin, then set up a tiger driver. Jericho backdropped out of it and Omega landed on the table at ringside, crashing through it. Omega was really slow to get up, and Ross noted he must be hurt. Omega took some swings at Jericho from the ring apron, but Jericho punched back also. Omega headbutted Jericho. Jericho raked Omega’s eyes. Jericho then springboard dropkicked Omega on the ring apron. Omega took a bump onto the back of his head on the ring apron. Both were down and slow to get up again.
Jericho set up a superplex, but then stepped to the top rope. Omega blocked it and knocked Jericho to the mat. Omega then leaped at Jericho, but Jericho caught him with a Code Breaker out of mid-air for a near fall. A couple minutes later Omega hit a sitout dragon suplex for a two count. Both were slow to get up again. Jericho blocked a V-trigger and then quickly applied a Walls of Jericho. Omega crawled toward the bottom rope, but Jericho yanked him back toward the center. He twisted a little extra, but Omega rolled out of it and upkicked Jericho three times to break the hold. Omega hit a discus right and then a V-trigger. He was slow to get up, but when he did, he lifted Jericho Jericho onto his shoulders. Jericho twisted into a sloppy DDT. They were both slow to get up again. They cut to amazed fans. Ross called it an “amazing and epic contest.”
Jericho gave Omega an enzuigiri. Jericho avoided a one-winged Angel and turned it into a DDT of Omega. He then hit a Code Breaker on Omega. Both stood slowly. Jericho gave Omega the Judas Effect back elbow for a three count.
WINNER: Jericho in 27:00 to earn a shot at the AEW Title. (****)
(Keller’s Analysis: The crowd seemed stunned by the finish. The announcers did, too. Athletically up and down in terms of crispness, but really strong psychologically at telling an epic story.)
-After the match, Jericho took the mic. “You want to be boo me after that, huh?” he said. “You ungrateful jerks. You can say whatever you want, I don’t give a rats ass about your boos or your cheers. Lighten up, marks.” He said the bottom line is he just got the crap kicked out of him, but he’s smart enough to know it’s his time now. He said this isn’t a company for the fans, it’s a company for him. He said they have a fancy logo, fast ticket sales, and a big TV deal. “What’s the reason for that?” he said. “It’s me.” He said he told them when he beat Kenny, he was going to demand one thing from everyone – a thank you. He demanded it again.
-Suddenly Jon Moxley came out through the crowd. The arena burst into cheers. He entered the ring and stared down Jericho. Fans chanted “Moxley!” Then he DDT’d Jericho. He then gave the ref a DDT. A loud “Moxley!” chant broke out. Moxley then gestured toward Omega. He leaned down and grabbed him by his hair and lifted him. Then he kicked him and set up a DDT. Omega tackled Moxley through the ropes and they fought at ringside and into the crowd. “A-E-Dub!” chants broke out. They brawled over to the giant poker chips that were part of the set. Moxely then DDT’d Omega on top of the stack of giant chops. He sat and smiled. “Oh, what a moment! How do you like AEW now?” Ross said. Moxley then lifted Omega while standing on the chips and slammed Omega off of them onto a platform below. He stood on the chips and extended his arms and then laid down and looked at the crowd wide-eyed as Ross signed off.
(Keller’s Analysis: Great ending. I loved the sense – and NXT has done this effectively at times – that the show was ready to end after the Jericho heel promo, and instead it was “extended” by an “unexpected arrival/angle.” Moxley was great here in his demeanor and intensity. He went after everyone, signaling he’s going to be his own man. This sets up Moxley vs. Omega at All Out, which explains why Jericho beat Omega to set up Page vs. Jericho for the AEW Title – although I do wonder if Page had faced Pac, who would have won the battle royal. I’m really excited to see Moxley be the character he wants to be instead of the compromised presentation he felt trapped in when he was in WWE.)
FINAL THOUGHTS: The last two hours really turned around my opinion of the show. The first two hours contained good athleticism and a lot of prospects to be regular full time valuable roster members, but it was just a parade of tag matches and too many spots and not enough backstory. That is, to a degree, built into a big show without TV storylines to support it. So the pre-show was awful to an alarming degree, the first two hours of the PPV itself was athletically strong but a blur of too many wrestlers without back stories, and the final two hours was two of the best hours of pro wrestling PPV in years. If AEW wanted to give fans a reason for confidence going into this fall, the final two hours did that. I’m very comfortable with a top singles core of Moxley, Omega, Jericho, Page, Cody, and Pac. They need to build a few more stars in the singles men’s division, and there were some prospects on this show, but a strong mid-card is also important and there’s a ton of candidates for that, too, on this show.
CHECK OUT PWTORCH’S SEAN RADICAN’S REPORT WITH A MORE DETAILED PLAY-BY-PLAY OF THE MATCHES: RADICAN’S 5/25 AEW “Double or Nothing” PPV report: Young Bucks vs. Lucha Bros., Jericho vs. Omega